Manufacturing capacity utilization (MCU), scored a 75.4% in February, a relatively flat % change month on month, (m/m). On a year on year (y/y) comparison the MCU was down 0.45%.

Manufacturing fundamentals continue to improve. Both the U.S. and global economy are strengthening and at the same time, the dollar has depreciated against the Broad Index, (basket of countries’ currencies that the U.S trades with). In addition, inventories that were previously seen as a drag on production have now shifted to a supporting role.

Figure 1 charts capacity utilization from 2000 to present. The MCU index is currently in the green zone which is considered to be ideal. After a long run at the bottom of the “green zone”, the index has begun to move higher scoring.

CNBC states that, “February’s drop in manufacturing production added to soft reports ranging from retail sales to housing in suggesting the economy lost significant momentum early in the first quarter. Goldman Sachs is forecasting gross domestic product will rise at a 0.6 percent annualized rate in the first quarter. The economy grew at a 2.6 percent pace in the fourth quarter.”

U.S. Manufacturing activity, which is12 percent of the economy, is losing steam as the boost to capital spending from last year’s $1.5 trillion tax cut package fades. Activity is also being crimped by a trade war between the United States and China as well as by last year’s surge in the dollar and softening global economic growth, which are hurting exports.

At Gerdau we regularly monitor the manufacturing capacity utilization date issued by the Federal Reserve because it provides excellent insight into the health of US manufacturing activity. We know that when manufacturing is performing well, so are steel sales and want to keep you our valued customers and readers informed.